WALKERS ARE WELCOME
EYE TO JOIN SHOTLEY AND CLARE IN SCHEME TO PROMOTE WALKING
THE Walkers are Welcome scheme is striding out across Suffolk, encouraging local people and visitors to enjoy the county’s landscapes, heritage and wildlife, and helping to boost local economies.
The county now has two Walkers are Welcome communities. Clare has received full accreditation in the national scheme, following in the footsteps of Shotley. Eye will become Suffolk’s third accredited community this spring and several others are on the way.
Clare, a community with a proud history and a stunning Stour Valley setting, celebrated its accreditation with a formal launch at the town’s Bell Hotel and a stroll around some of the town’s main heritage highlights. Derek Blake, chairman of the thriving Clare Walkers group and a driving force in establishing the community as a Walkers are Welcome town, said the accreditation was “born of Clare’s wonderful country park.” The community has taken ownership of the park in recent years, a move that has provided impetus to Clare’s already strong focus on the benefits of walking.
“Local community ownership of the park has totally re-energised it and there is great affection for it. There is a strong community spirit here and walking has really caught the mood in Clare,” he said. The team worked on its accreditation in partnership with the local business association, town council and others. County councillor Mary Evans also pushed for three Walkers are Welcome signs to be displayed on roadsigns leading into the town. She attended the launch along with about 60 people, including South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge and representatives of Ramblers, One Life Suffolk, Nordic Walking East Anglia and other partner organisations. Mr Cartlidge, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, spoke of the health and wellbeing benefits of walking, and said initiatives such as Walkers are Welcome had a preventative role, helping to promote healthy lifestyles, with benefits for mental and physical health
In a message to the launch, the scheme’s patron, Kate Ashbrook, congratulated Clare on becoming the first Walkers are Welcome town in west Suffolk and the second in Suffolk, joining the growing alliance of East Anglian towns.
“You will help to put Suffolk on the walkers’ map as a county of immense beauty, variety and interest, for its wildlife, history and fine landscapes. By encouraging people to visit and walk your paths you will help to keep them open for all to enjoy,” she said.
Walkers are Welcome status is awarded to towns and villages that support walkers by meeting national criteria such as producing leaflets, maps and other information, organising walks, helping to maintain footpaths and ensuring that cafes, pubs, shops and B&Bs give walkers a warm welcome. The national self-governing scheme is run by the charity Walkers are Welcome CIC and began in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, in 2007. It now has a membership of more than 100 towns and villages throughout the country.
The Suffolk Walkers are Welcome Alliance includes Snape, Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds, who are working towards accreditation, as well as Shotley, Clare and Eye. They are supported by the Green Access Team at Suffolk County Council. Eye is planning a launch of its full accreditation in May.
For more information about Walkers are Welcome visit www.walkersarewelcome.org.uk.
Walkers are Welcome gets underway at Clare Castle in Clare Country Park
Clare Walkers group chairman Derek Blake and St Edmundsbury councillor Alaric Pugh